The government is recommending that people at risk of the liver virus hepatitis A seek a new vaccine.
Hepatitis A infects about 138,000 Americans annually and kills about 100. However, if treated promptly, the infection usually clears up in about two months - unlike the more severe, chronic hepatitis B.
The Food and Drug Administration in February approved the nation’s first hepatitis A vaccine, SmithKline Beecham’s Havrix. The vaccine costs about $60 a shot, including the doctor visit. Two doses are needed.
On Wednesday, the federal Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommended that people at risk of hepatitis A get vaccinated. But the unanimous vote is binding only to the federal Vaccines for Children program, meaning eligible children now can get that shot for free.
At risk are people who live with hepatitis patients or in communities with numerous cases, international travelers, people with chronic liver disease and, during outbreaks, daycare centers.